Economic Report: Consumer sentiment improves at end of February, but Americans still have lots of worries

The numbers: The final reading of U.S. consumer sentiment in February rose slightly to 62.8, reflecting somewhat less pessimism about the future as omicron faded.

The index registered 61.7 earlier in the month after a preliminary survey, marking the lowest level in more than 10 years.

Consumers turned more pessimistic last summer after the delta variant of the coronavirus struck and their optimism was further dampened by omicron.

One of the chief worries of consumers right now is the worst inflation in 40 years. Prices could rise even further in the short run after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Key details: A gauge that measure what consumers think about their own financial situation and the current health of the economy slipped to 68.2 from a preliminary 68.5, the University of Michigan said. 

Yet another measure that asks about expectations for the next six months rose to 59.4 from an initial 57.4, suggesting consumers see better days ahead.

Big picture: Americans don’t think the economy is going to get a lot better soon, but they also don’t think it will get much worse. 

The big bugaboo is inflation. Prices are expected to keep rising in the first half of 2022 before starting to slow. But the Ukraine conflict has become a new wild card. The survey was completed before the outbreak of war.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average

and S&P 500

rose in Friday trades. Stocks have been under pressure all week because of the Russian attack on Ukraine.

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